Sandvik looks back at 20 years with Northparkes Mines

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  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

THEN: A Sandvik LH514E LHD with original genset enters Northparkes Mines. THEN: A Sandvik LH514E LHD with original genset enters Northparkes Mines.
THEN: Servicing a Sandvik LH514E LHD at Northparkes Mines. THEN: Servicing a Sandvik LH514E LHD at Northparkes Mines.
THEN: Northparkes Mines' Tamrock office in 1995. THEN: Northparkes Mines' Tamrock office in 1995.
NOW: Northparks Mines technician Amanda Hartin. NOW: Northparks Mines technician Amanda Hartin.
NOW: A Sandvik service bay at Northparkes Mines. NOW: A Sandvik service bay at Northparkes Mines.
NOW: The Sandvik team at Northparkes Mines. NOW: The Sandvik team at Northparkes Mines.

Sandvik Mining is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Northparkes Mines copper/gold mine in the Central West of New South Wales by highlighting its own involvement in supplying and maintaining the mine’s underground production equipment since 1994. Here’s the story from the Sandvik team:

Northparkes Mines is recognised globally as one of the most innovative and leading edge producers in the mining industry. The mine’s drive to adapt the latest new technology into the underground production environment has been supported by Sandvik’s own development of advanced automated mining products through to its advanced AutoMine autonomous load-haul-dump system used at the mine today.

Sandvik’s involvement with Northparkes Mines, owned and operated at the time by North Ltd, began in October 1993, when construction started on its E26 underground block cave mine – Australia's first.

(Ron Horner, chief reviewer for, was also involved with the mine from the start, initially subcontracting the 35km water line from Parkes to the mine. You can read his story here. — Ed.)

Once production started, Sandvik supplied six Toro LH450E electric load-haul-dumps (LHDs), with the first of these going on site in mid-1996.

From its earliest days, the Northparkes mine was pioneering remote operation of equipment, with a number of trials conducted in the E26 Lift One and E26 Lift Two block caves.

These original remotely operated LHDs featured a CECAM on-board monitoring system, Nautilus Powercam tele-remote on-board operating system and a generator set used to transport the loaders from surface to underground. They were controlled by operator stations installed in the underground operations control room.

Other equipment supplied by Sandvik included two Tamrock secondary break drill rigs, which are still in service, and a ‘high hang up’ secondary break drill rig.

These machines were covered by a maintenance contract, including on site parts and a 10-person support crew to fully maintain the fleet.

At the time of their commissioning in 1996, Northparkes’ electric tele-remote LHDs were unique in Australia, says Sandvik Mining account manager Gary Lyons, who was on site for three years from the initial machine delivery and commissioning in 1994.

"Northparkes has had a strong commitment to state-of-the-art technology right from the beginning," he says. "The initial program had just six loaders being used at a time, and the aim back then was to reach a planned 4.5 mtpa (metric tonnes per annum) production target, which required them to be handling 14,000 tonnes of material a day.

"We have also had a service and parts contracts at Northparkes Mines from the very start – and which has continued to this day. By the time those loaders were up to 30,000 hours, our service team had them running at lower hourly costs than when they were new," he adds.

Lyons says that despite the LHDs initially having tele-remote operating capability, it was still essentially a manual operation with a single operator controlling a single loader in real-time. 

Today, the mine runs a fleet of fully automated Sandvik AutoMine-controlled LHDs, with the option to take manual control if required.


Sandvik -Northparkes -mine -body


This AutoMine system controls Sandvik loaders in the mine’s E48 block cave, consisting of 10 extraction drives with a total of 214 draw points. Seven Sandvik LHDs – six LH514Es (pictured above) and an LH514D – all fitted with AutoMine, allow for safe, autonomous operation from the surface control room

As operator input is only required for a brief portion of the production cycle (filling the LHD bucket at the drawpoint), each operator can control up to four autonomous LHDs. The loaders then tram autonomously with full buckets to the ROM bin, dump and return to the next designated draw point.

Sandvik’s AutoMine system produces 80 percent of the Northparkes mine’s underground production.

"We would like to congratulate Northparkes Mines on its remarkable achievements over the past 20 years," says Sandvik Australian country manager Rowan Melrose. "Sandvik is very proud to have been involved with the mine’s underground operations since the earliest construction phase.

"This relationship has grown and developed over the past two decades, to the point where it is a world-renowned underground hard-rock mine using highly advanced automated mining technology.

"Over its life, Northparkes has pioneered a number of innovative mining techniques and systems, developing a reputation for being one of the safest and most productive underground hard rock mine operations anywhere in the world," Melrose adds. "We are delighted to have had on-going opportunities to play a part in its success over the past 20 years."

Besides Gary Lyons, two long-standing employees still with Sandvik, and who have been involved with Northparkes, are Paul Evans, now responsible for Sandvik Mining’s national load  and haul product support, and who was involved in the original service contract at Northparkes, and Drew Zammitt, who was project manager at the time of the original contract and is currently Sandvik Mining’s regional service centre manager.

"I doubt there is another mine like Northparkes anywhere in the world," Lyons says. "It’s a pretty special place – and we have been privileged to be a part of its operations over the past 20 years."


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